Four sterling innings pitched by Jamestown's Connor Hoyt highlighted the Buffalo City's return to live team sports.
Thursday's Senior Babe Ruth baseball doubleheader between the Jamestown Eagles and the Dickinson Roughriders marked the first competitive varsity sports event hosted in Jamestown since Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier boys basketball defeated Strasburg/Zeeland in the championship game of the Region 3 tournament on March 12 at the Civic Center.
But 77 days later, and with social distancing still recommended in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball -- and sports -- was back at Jack Brown Stadium.
The game's lone umpire -- Dan Haugen -- called balls and strikes from behind the pitcher's mound, no sunflower seeds could be spit and no post-game handshakes occurred, but nobody seemed to care. The sun was out, the grass was green and the lefty Hoyt pitched four scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts in helping the Class A Eagles defeat the Class AA Roughriders 9-5 in Game 2.
The junior-to-be Hoyt tossed just three total innings for the 15-12 Eagles in 2019.
"I've been thinking about this game ever since it's been planned," Hoyt said. "It felt good. I felt really relaxed on the mound and I knew I had a defense behind me to back me up."
Hoyt faced just one batter over the minimum through three innings before getting out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting Dickinson's Landon Aman to fly out to second and Tyler White to ground out to third. Already leading 6-0, Jamestown tacked on three more runs in the bottom half and floated to victory on the nine-run cushion.
"Connor's always been throwing strikes," said Jamestown coach Sam Joseph. "He goes up there and challenges hitters. He says, 'This is what I've got, hit it.' And then he knows that his defense behind him is gonna go get the ball."
Jamestown's defense shined. The Eagles' second baseman Gage Orr helped turn a double play in the second, left fielder Isaac Mimong threw out Reese Mack at second as he tried to stretch a single into a double in the third, and shortstop Chris Erickson dove to his left and robbed Nate Jilek of a base hit in the fifth.
Dickinson loaded the bases in each of the game's final four innings, but only churned out five runs after sending 23 batters to the plate over the final three frames. No frowns, however, were found anywhere on the field.
Dickinson won the opener 8-2. The Roughriders connected for seven hits en route to victory, none bigger than Isaac Daley's two-run homer over the ivy in right field in the sixth inning.
Dickinson racked up 14 stolen bases, while the Eagles came up with just a pair of hits and left nine runners on base in the opener.
"We were playing baseball today, so it was a win for everybody in my eyes," said Dickinson coach Tyler Frenzel. "I was proud of our guys.
"It's early, but it's nice to see our guys swinging and hitting well," Frenzel continued. "Jamestown's a nice team, they're well-coached and we were just happy to be out to play today."
Erickson batted 1-for-3 in Game 2 for the Eagles and drove in Jamestown's third run with an RBI single after a two-run error charged to Mack at shortstop opened the scoring. Tommy Falk led off Jamestown's three-run third with a double and later scored on a Max Anderson triple to deep left-center. Mimong and Max Fronk also picked up RBIs in the third.
Falk, who caught Game 2, connected for a second double in Jamestown's three-run fourth, as he'd finish 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Dickinson answered the 9-0 deficit in the fifth with a two-run double off the bat of Jaren Hughelen.
Jamestown flirted with disaster down the stretch, as Dickinson kept loading the bases. But the Roughriders were limited to just three more runs on a wild pitch in the sixth, and a Britton Cranston RBI single and a Troy Berg sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Erickson struck out Hughelen in relief with the bases loaded to end the game.
"I was proud with what we showed out there but at the same time, we still have a lot of work to do with the pitchers," said Joseph. "Conditioning is one and we've gotta make sure we throw strikes. We're not gonna overpower a lot of teams, so we have to make sure that we instill to our pitchers that they have to throw to contact and let the defense do the work."
The Eagles host the Class AA Fargo Stars for a doubleheader on June 3 beginning at 5:30 p.m. Jamestown opens Class A Senior Babe Ruth West Region play hosting the Bismarck Senators on June 8.
"We finally got the butterflies out of the way and they came out swinging the bats in that second game," said Joseph. "So I was proud they bounced back. They did pretty good."
Things to know:
In lieu of no American Legion Baseball in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakota Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken baseball has incorporated the state's Class AA and Class A American Legion teams into its youth baseball programs this summer.
Jamestown's Class A team, with ages ranging between 16-19, is competing in the Senior Babe Ruth Class A West Region this summer. The West Region comprises the Jamestown Eagles, the Bismarck Capitals, the Bismarck Reps, the Bismarck Senators, the Dickinson Volunteers, the Mandan A's, the Minot Metros, the Williston Oilers and the Watford City Walleye.
The Senior Babe Ruth Class A division also includes 11 teams in the East Region, the Fargo Jets, the Fargo Bombers, the Fargo Comets, the Fargo Astros, the West Fargo Aces, the West Fargo Vets, Valley City, Devils Lake, Kindred, Wahpeton and Casselton, for a total of 20 teams.
Jamestown has 20 games scheduled prior to the annual Phil Brown Classic planned for July 10-12 at Jack Brown Stadium. The West Region tournament is scheduled for July 18 through Aug. 1 in Jamestown, with the state tournament planned for Aug. 4-8 in Valley City's Charlie Brown Field.
In May, the American Legion shut down all sponsorship and national involvement in baseball for the 2020 season.
Dickinson 8, Jamestown 2
D 100 202 3 - 8 7 3
J 000 002 0 - 2 2 2
Nick Deschamp, Reese Mack (3), Carson Weiler (6) and Logan Bentz. Max Anderson, Tommy Falk (4), Gage Orr (7) and Isaac Mimong. W--Mack. L--Anderson.
Highlights: D, Carson Weiler 2-3, RBI, 2 R, 4 SB; Isaac Daley 1-4, HR, 2 RBI; Nathan Jilek 1-3, 2 R; Jaren Hughelen 1-4, 2B; Kobe Krenz 1-3, RBI, R, 4 SB. J, Chris Erickson 1-3, BB; Michael Mahoney 1-3, RBI, BB, SB.
Records: Dickinson 1-0, Jamestown 0-1.
Jamestown 9, Dickinson 5
D 000 021 2 - 5 12 3
J 033 300 x - 9 8 1
Connor Hoyt, Jacoby Nold (5), Chris Erickson (7) and Tommy Falk. Kobe Krenz, Logan Bentz (3), Troy Berg (4), Isaac Daley (5) and Tyler White. W--Hoyt. L--Krenz.
Highlights: D, Troy Berg 1-3, R, RBI, 2 BB; Hughelen 1-4, 2 RBI, 2B; Jilek 1-1, R, 3B; Riley O'Donnell 2-3, R, BB. J, Hoyt 4 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 2 SO; Falk 2-4, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI; Isaac Mimong 1-2, 2 R, 2 BB; Max Anderson 1-4, 3B, RBI, R; Erickson 1-2, RBI 2 HBP.
Records: Jamestown 1-1, Dickinson 1-1.